You're looking at a Gypsum mine in Gypsum, Colorado. I created this work to address American Gypsum's improper mining practice. Since creating this work, I've handed out informative pamphlets educating the town of pollutants from the mine which seep into the soil and enter both; the Colorado River and their community park lake. This work has only been privately collected. Limited editions remain.
An inside look at Gypsum and the work Vaticinate:
Behind the scenes of the work:
I initially came across the site via a cell phone picture which then lead to searching Gypsum, CO via google maps. That following day I drove three hours to the town of Gypsum only to find the majority of the mining site to be hidden by large human-made earth mounds; giant fences if you will. Only a plant was/is visible to the public.
Deep with curiosity I scaled the mounds for a birds eye view. The mammoth site seemed otherworldly; which is the case for most mining sites. Below were small mountains of various earth piled throughout with heavy machinery scattered the area creating large footprints from the heavy treaded tires. One area had pools of strange liquid that screamed: "unsafe".
These observations seemed harmless though I was technically trespassing. Though it was only a matter of time before my curiosity piqued and I began to traverse into the site. I'd park miles away and hike in through the cold thin air before sunrise.
I'd watch the workforce morning shifts begin and how they shaped and shifted the land as the light upon the earth did the same. Nestled in like an animal I would dream of getting to that stage surrounded by that foul smelling water...
When I first laid eyes upon those aforementioned pools of liquid, I knew something was wrong. A large part of my creative process is observational learning or studying. There are no sketches, maybe some written words, but mostly it's the act of seeing and being present - then acting.
Most days of the weeks except Sundays the site had some sort of operation. Naturally, this led to night excursions. I'd often become lost for hours in the cold. From above everything appeared so small though when actually in the site, I became so very small.
As weeks went by each visit had me feeling both inspired and defeated. I had this vision but no way to execute. I would dream of it and obsession arose.
Then, perhaps from carelessness or bad luck, my presence became noticed and the mines security increased. Lazy patrol cars became more frequent as their numbers doubled. I felt cornered and my window of opportunity was quickly fading.
So what became my last attempt; with the towel nearly thrown in, I discovered mountain lion tracks near mine. The strange feeling of being stalked earlier that night became a reality. Any fear of being caught had been completely erased and this was it.
While testing stable ground near the works main island platform, I slipped and quickly sunk into the silk gypsum Earth. It was like hyper quicksand. With toxic waters all around me at the last moment my shovel struck hardened ground. Soaked and shivering, on my hands and knees I begged for air that was so cold it burned. I had to leave or freeze.
Defeat like this was dreadful. I exited in plain sight, crossed streets and moved through private lands uncaring for anything or anyone. As I looked to locate my van a blue sheet of trash moved across the land like an awkward tumbleweed. As I moved closer to this unknown object I realized it was a thick and dense sheet of styrofoam. I quickly grabbed it and stood in amazement and with that found piece of trash, I was able to create this work.
About the site:
The town of Gypsum, Colorado has just under 7,000 people and is roughly the same size as the adjacent town of Eagle, a handful of miles east. Both towns share a common ground to the large plant: American Gypsum, the areas largest employer. Gypsum is a mineral that comes from the Earth and is primarily mined for drywall and joint compound manufacturing with American Gypsum being a large U.S. producer.
Currently, American Gypsum is looking to expand its interests and break open a new mine near its current site in Gypsum. Its practices, like all other mining companies are subject to EPA standards. It has been shut down numerous times for unsafe practices and re-opened under a new name over the years.
The size of this plant and the natural abundance of gypsum in the area is remarkable to see. The town and its people are not only subject to these mishaps and malpractices like toxins entering their drinking water and fishing ponds, but the Colorado river, a major waterway runs 50 meters North of the site. How we treat our Earth is how we face our future...
Thank-you Matt Colaizzo for your support, shovel toss and process photos. Watching the sun change upon that landscape I'll never forget.